Long walks taking down barriers

Long walks taking down barriers

By Col

Go nice places and do good things. A seemingly simple mantra to live by and one that's important to us as we know well the joys, passions and indeed challenges that it can offer up.But for some their life circumstances just doesn't make it that easy.

Well The Manna, a daycentre for homeless and marginalised people within Islington, London, wanted to take socially excluded people on long walks in the countryside. Anne, a key worker there for 25 years knows well the impact that helping these members of the community can have, so continually looks at ways that help enhance peoples lives that face constant struggles. “We provide the usual daycentre services of food, showers, clothing, laundry etc, but also a community to belong to and fun things to do like poetry, art, gardening and singing.. Our members want to go on longer full-day walks, getting further out of London.”

Her plan was to organise one long walk a month for six months, but with no funding, members who either have no income or only basic benefits they needed help to the scheme running. “We have the ideas and the volunteers and the demand but not the cash. Because our members have such narrow horizons and difficult or humdrum lives in inner-city London, they want to see more of the world and have new experiences, get more exercise and breathe purer air. Be diverted from trouble, climb a tree, get muddy, see wildlife, walk on country paths instead of London pavement. Hear a woodpecker, sit in a café half-way because they are as good as anyone else and it's for them too. A quote from a troubled woman who came on a short walk in a forest with us "that was f----ing brilliant"

Well we couldn’t have put it better ourselves. Some people face such massive obstacles that stop them experiencing even the seemingly simplest of outdoor delights, that many of us wouldn’t give a second thought about. So the Alpkit Foundation was honoured to help provide funding for the travel expense needed to put on these trips.

Anne recently got back in touch with us to let us know how they got on.

“We went on six long walks as follows: New River from Hertford to Broxbourne, Epping Forest from Epping to Chingford, River Lea circular from Cheshunt, Chilterns circular from Tring, Grand Union canal from Uxbridge to Rickmansworth and the River Thames from Richmond to Hampton Court. Fifteen different people came on the walks, with an average of eight on each. These were all clients from our daycentre. Some had never walked in the countryside and found it initially un-nerving but then exciting. Others had not been out of London for many years and started to remember happier times in their childhoods” From the walks it became apparent that it wasn’t just physical benefits that made these walks so impactful. “… exercise and other health benefits were good but even more important were the comeraderie, the chance to contribute ideas, the involvement (map-reader, compass operator, train timetable consultant, the keeper of the sweetbag). Greatest of all was the realisation that the countryside is for them; they are allowed to walk in it on equal terms with everyone else”

“The project exceeded our expectations. Participants were excited to be part of it and keen to get involved in the planning. A lot of mutual support developed and friendships were made. Barriers were suddenly not there anymore. There was a unanimous call to repeat the project.”

Hurrah! We’re over the moon that these people were able to go nice place and do good things. Hopefully forget their day to day problems,even just for the day and give them hope for the future.

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